I started this article with the intention of answering the question why can’t I make friends and keep them.
But as I began to explore some of the possible reasons, both from my life as someone who found it difficult to make friends and from my experience helping others get out of that situation, I found out the reasons why people find it difficult to make friends is exclusive to individuals.
So instead of just answering the question by saying it depends (it truly depends), I changed the focus to 51 possible reasons why people find it difficult to make friends and keep them.
This article is meant to serve a diagnostic purpose. It will not fully look into the solutions to these problems, but I hope as you find which of the reason(s) apply to you, you can go ahead to find solutions, both as contained in other articles on this blog and other materials.
Why Can’t I Make Friends And Keep Them?
1. You are not friendly: to make and keep friends, you need position yourself as someone who wants to have friends. Friendliness include smiles and a welcoming attitude. Everyone will run away from a person who isn’t friendly.
2. You have too much expectations from your friends: you might have friends already and be expecting that they give everything they have and are to you. Your friends cannot take all your burdens; you need to allow them to be themselves even as they are your friends.
3. Lack of trust: friendship is a relationship of trust. You need to trust your friends with your secrets, your vulnerabilities for them to be truly called friends. If you don’t trust people, you will keep treating them as regular people and won’t cross that level of intimacy that will allow you open up to them and become friends.
4. Lack of self-discovery: if you don’t understand yourself, your personality, your needs and preferences, you won’t know which friends you need, and you will keep switching friends because none of them is satisfying your inward needs. But it first takes a knowledge of your needs to know who or what will satisfy them.
5. Unforgiveness: offense are the byproducts of relationships. If you don’t want to be offended, you must stay away from any form of relationship. But if you must make friends and keep them, you have to learn to forgive the offences that will come and move on with the friendship.
6. Bad attitudes: this is a big umbrella reason why many people can’t make friends. From things like gossiping to constant fights, to cheating and nagging, nobody want to make friends with a person with bad attitude.
7. Unfaithfulness: friendship requires faithfulness. You need to go out of your way to make the friendship work. If you are there today and not there the next day for the person(s), the friendship can’t stand.
8. Poor grooming: nobody want to associate with people who don’t dress well, look good or smell nice. You need to not just be who people will want to associate with; you also need to look like who people want to associate with.
9. You think you can’t make friends: where the mind goes, the man follows. If you constantly see yourself as someone who can’t make friends and keep them, you will tilt, unknowingly, into taking actions that will stop you from making friends or keeping them.
10. Selfishness: any friendship where one party only thinks about their own needs and what they can get, is parasitic. Friendship should be symbiotic (both parties should benefit from the relationship). You must be ready to contribute towards the friendship and to the friend.
11. You are overprotective: friendship comes with vulnerabilities, and deep within us, everybody knows that. When you are overprotective of yourself, you might unknowingly stay away from friendships or even do it intentionally. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself, but you shouldn’t overprotect yourself to stay away from friendships entirely. Be open to hurt, and most times, it won’t come or won’t be as bad as you expect.
12. The fear of taking the first step: people are naturally friendly, but you must take the first step. I learnt this from Ali Abdaal and it’s true. There are many people who will make good friends and who you are interested in making your friends; you need to overcome your fear and go ahead to initiate a conversation. From my experience, very very few people will turn you down.
13. You want too many friends: I have also noticed that some people don’t find it difficult to make or keep friends, in actual sense; it is just that they want the whole world to be their friends. Once you have one or two good friends, you shouldn’t continue a search for more friends– most times, you it will be counter productive. It might also interest you to know that more friends don’t cure loneliness
14. You haven’t practiced it: making friends is a skill and like every other skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. This is the way I got out of the zone of not being able to make friends. I started to try, and with time, it became easier.
15. You have nothing to offer: friendship should be a relationship of mutual benefit. If you don’t have things to offer (advice, resources, empathy, comfort, fun etc), it will be difficult to make or keep friends. Clearly, what to offer isn’t necessarily money– you can offer your ideas or just anything you possess that will benefit the other person.
Related: 14 Deadly Enemies of Human Potential
16. You give up too soon: because you have spent most of your life not making or having friends, it won’t be all easy. If you aren’t getting your desire from the friendship, you should be patient enough to stay for some time. Friendship grow with time. Also you shouldn’t give up too soon in trying to meet new people.
17. You are not trying: friendship most likely won’t jump on you. You have to make effort and be consciously involved in the process of making friends.
18. You haven’t learnt how: some people have continued to try and practice, but it still doesn’t work. This is because the art of making friends is a skill that can be learnt and should be learnt. Get books and read. I highly recommend, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
19. You silently think you don’t need friends: everything we do stem from some unconscious beliefs we have. If you unconsciously think you don’t need friends, you will somehow avoid friend making opportunities. The solution is to find the benefits having friends will give you.
20. You don’t give time to the friendship: relationships grow with time, but this doesn’t mean you should stand allof and expect the relationship to grow. You need to spend time with your friends. This will require sacrificing some other things to intentionally spend time with your friends. I learnt this from my personal experience: if I stay away from my friends for some time, the bond will be loosened.
21. You are over-focused on your goals: this is a mixture of selfishness and not spending time with your friends, but it is worth separating because goals are important and require focus. To make and keep friends, you will have to sacrifice some things including your goals. This doesn’t mean abandoning your goals for friends (never!) It means making adjustments to balance both.
22. You are too picky: some people have long list of characteristics their ‘ideal’ friend must possess. If you are that person, you might not find that friend throughout your lifetime. Be ready to embrace your friends with their strengths and weaknesses. That’s what friendship is about after all. A friend is someone you can reveal your weakness to without shame; you should be that friend to someone too.
23. Social isolation: the more people you meet, the more likely you will find friends. If you don’t engage in social activities, you won’t learn the needed skills for socialization and you won’t get the opportunity to meet people to socialize with.
24. You focus too much on flaws: if you first examine everyone you meet by looking at their flaws, you will miss the strengths they have. Since you know everyone has some flaws, focus on people’s strength. They aren’t all bad.
25. You are not being yourself: if continue pretending to be someone else, you won’t make friends that will satisfy your needs. You can’t be who you are not, but you can become who you are not. While you might be working on changing certain aspects of your life, you shouldn’t pretend. If you pretend and make friends, they will ultimately find out who you are and leave. Let people know you for who you truly are; that’s when you can make true friends that will stay.
26. Low Self-esteem: if you don’t see yourself as worthy, you will find making and keeping friends difficult. Low self-esteem will stop you from initiating any conversation, it will stop you from receiving help or offering help, you won’t see yourself as worthy of friendship, and you’ll be stopped from doing other things that will help you make friends and keep them.
27. You feel you always deserve friends: this is almost the opposite of low self-esteem, but it also stops from making and keeping friends. If you feel you always deserve friends, you won’t commit to making the friendship work. After all, you always deserve friends; if they go others will come. Unfortunately, they still haven’t come. Truly, you deserve friends but if you aren’t committed, they will go. I didn’t call this lack of commitment because the lack of commitment here is sponsored by the mindset you always deserve friends.
28. You are too desperate: although you should take conscious steps to make friends, you shouldn’t force yourself on anyone or do demeaning things just to have anyone as your friend. You should have standards and choice still. You can still live happily while you are working on making friends. If people notice your are desperately looking for friends they will disrespect you and take you likely. You won’t get the best friends with desperation.
29. You want them all to yourself: your friends should have other friends too. If your friendship with anyone means they won’t talk to anyone else or make other friends, you are not a good friend and you will chase people away from you. People should be free to make as many friends as they want.
30. You don’t study people’s likes: as you continue your friendship with people, you should find their likes and dislikes and try to do what they like more and avoid what they dislike. These are some of the sacrifices that keep friendships.
31. You are not tolerant: times will come when your friends will do things you don’t like, you should learn to tolerate them. Even as you let them know your displeasure, you should understand their limitations too and tolerate them. This doesn’t mean you should make yourself a social slave; it only means you shouldn’t always fight and complain.
32. You are afraid of rejection: if you don’t want to be rejected, you won’t present yourself to anyone for any journey towards friendship to begin. But once the fear of rejection is overcome, from experience, you most likely won’t face rejection, just will just make good friends.
33. You don’t love yourself: if you don’t love yourself, you won’t expect anyone to love you and so will see potential friends as imposters and consciously or unconsciously avoid them.
34. You are not growing: if your friends and those around you continue to learn new things and expose themselves to growth opportunities and you don’t, overtime, the friendship will wear out or they will outgrow you.
35. You don’t have respect: nobody wants to be disrespected. You must show enough respect for the person and values of your friends for the friendships to work. They must also respect you in return.
36. Poor communication skills: relationships grow as communication increases. If you can’t express yourself and communicate effectively, making friends will be difficult and keeping them will be even more difficult. Learn to communicate appreciation, pleasure, displeasure and learn to understand what they are communicating too.
37. You are not open: friendship is a relationship of mutual self-disclosure. And the more you disclose yourself, the more they disclose themselves too. If you don’t open up, they won’t either, and there’s no friendship at all.
38. You don’t show appreciation: if you don’t acknowledge your friends when they go out of their way for you, they will get tired and be turned off by your ingratitude. When your friends do anything for you, you shouldn’t see it as a right. Instead, you should be grateful for the privilege. Because, what if they didn’t do it?
39. You don’t show reciprocity: it’s not enough to show appreciation; you should also go out of your way for your friends some times. It is give and take. Not take and thank.
40. Poor conflict resolution skill: offences are the byproducts of relationships. If you don’t respond to offences intelligently, they might disintegrate the relationship. You should learn when to talk things out, when to ignore and when to confront, depending on which suits the context.
41. You have too many boundaries: the more personal boundaries you have from your friends, they farther you are from each other. The only boundaries you should have are those that will keep the relationship and other sensitive aspects of your life safe. Else, why are they friends if they don’t have access to your life?
42. You are not flexible: if you want things to always be in a particular way, you won’t make friends easily. Socialization is dynamic; you should learn to flow with the tide as long as it is not destructive or against your values, if you want to make friends and keep them.
43. You are not patient: I have seen many friendship end because of impatience. Impatience leading to assumptions and rash decisions which are later regretted is a strong reason why many can’t keep friends.
44. You overlook your current friends: sometimes people can make friends, it’s just that they don’t see their friends as friends. Consider those you always have around you, they might be the friends, after all. It is frustrating when you are trying to go to where you are already.
45. Lack of honesty: if you tell your friends the truth, true friends will stay. Only toxic relationships thrive on lies and deception.
46. You keep making friends with people who have uncommon interests: one bond of friendship is common interest. If your friends don’t enjoy anything you enjoy, there might be so much boredom in the relationship and it will later fade away. Know your interests and build friendship with people of common interest.
47. You don’t love people: love is not a feeling towards someone but doing things to benefit the person. The more your love, the more people will want to be your friends.
48. You always want things your way: there are times when you should lay down your will for the will of your friends. If it’s always your way, you aren’t a friend; you are a tyrant and you won’t make friends and keep them.
49. You don’t understand people: human psychology can be understood. If you don’t understand a person’s silence, for instance, you might misinterpret it for something else. You should understand when people are angry and how to respond that will best suit the situation. A lack of this understanding will stop you from making and keeping friends.
50. Pride: pride and friendship are two parallel lines. Simple!
51. You let friends go too easily: if a friend is important to you, hold them. Don’t let them go. Apologize. Reinstate the friendship. But never be a social slave. If a friendship must go, let it go.
These are some of the possible reasons why people find it difficult to make friends and keep them as seen from experience and study.
Have you found some reasons that aren’t listed here, join in building this list through the comment section and let’s help the world make more friends together.
Olusegun Iyejare is career coach and certified counsellor. He helps entrepreneurs balance mental wellbeing and entrepreneurial success. Think about maximizing your potential or living a fulfilling life and Olusegun is your go to person.